That’s probably not the usual question that we hear. More commonly, we probably hear, “Why is Mass so boring? Why is it so repetitive? Do we really have to go?”
In the months ahead, I hope to use this space to talk about all that we do every Sunday, why we do it, why it’s important, and why it’s fascinating. Hopefully, by the end, we can change our question from, “Why is Mass so boring?” to “Why is it so fascinating?”
Before we can begin, part of the challenge is that many of us need to take a step back and refocus our expectations for what the Mass is supposed to be. If I am told I am going to watch an action-packed, suspenseful movie, and instead find myself watching a slow, profound drama, I might be disappointed even if the actual movie is great. The problem isn’t with the drama, it’s with me and my expectations.
Maybe we can start by asking ourselves, “What is the point of Mass? What do I hope to get out of church?”
My hunch is that very few of us would answer, “To have fun. To be entertained.” If that were our main goal, we probably wouldn’t be in church. We would be watching television, going to a movie, going fishing or hunting, spending time with friends, playing sports, playing video games, or anything else that we enjoy. Let’s be honest. Mass is not exactly fun. It’s also not supposed to be. Engaging, fascinating, profound, moving, inspiring, and other things, yes. Fun, no. To be clear, Mass also shouldn’t be drudgery, boring, sorrowful, painful, and difficult. It should bring us great joy and peace and give us new life and energy that we never could have otherwise. We should leave church with joy, at peace, and on fire with the faith.
It’s just not the same type of thing as most everything else in our society. Today, we can be constantly entertained, kept occupied, be busy, and have new experiences. Almost everything else in our world caters to this. We are also frenetic, often unhappy, and frequently restless. Why? We need more time with things like the Mass. Mass isn’t meant to excite us in the superficial sense that our sports productions, movies, and games do. It has a much more profound meaning and sense of ritual which dates back to Jesus Christ himself. Part of the challenge, then, is realizing that Mass isn’t fun because it’s not meant to be fun in the sense that so much of the rest of our world tries to give today. The problem isn’t with the Mass itself. It’s that sometimes we go to it thinking that it should be like an entertaining, thriller when it’s really more of the profound drama.
On a similar level, Mass isn’t only about us. It’s about God. It’s our time to worship God, thank God, remember God, learn about God, and petition God. Certainly, it’s also the greatest opportunity for us to experience God in our own life, and it’s where we remember what God has done for us personally, and we receive great peace and joy and personal fulfillment when we come to Mass. Mass is ultimately about us in that it leads us closer to God and our own salvation, but it does so by our focusing first on God. Again, this can be counter-cultural. Advertisements and marketing always try to cater to us. If we go to Mass with the expectation that it is all about us, we will be sorely disappointed and find it boring. During that hour of the week, everyone, from the young to the old, the wealthy to the poor, the priest to the lay person, is called to be focused on God. Then, God speaks to each one of us individually and communally as we put him first and he gives us new life and joy.
Again, in the weeks and months ahead, I hope to use this space to write more about the Mass and its details: why we do what we do, what is happening, and what’s the point. By far, the greater challenge in appreciating the Mass is that we don’t always understand what exactly is happening in all of those gestures, rituals, and prayers. In this first post, though, I wanted to take a step back and refocus some of the expectations for what Mass is supposed to be or do. If we have false expectations, then no matter how amazing and riveting something like the Mass truly is, we will be disappointed. May God bless all of you and I hope you have a wonderful Labor Day weekend.